Apple Watch Ultra durability test is hard to watch for all the right reasons

Apple Watch Ultra in use on wrist and on table
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Everything about the Apple Watch Ultra is bigger. It has a bigger and brighter display than the Apple Watch 8, a bigger battery, bigger (and more) buttons, and it has a bigger capacity to handle the rough and tumble world of outdoor activities.

It can also take a punch, or at least a series of whacks, from a small sledgehammer. In a recent video spotted by MacRumors, YouTuber TechRax joyfully smashes the new $799 / £849 / AU$1229 Apple Watch Ultra to bits. It's a rather unrealistic durability test of the beefy 49mm wearable, but if you watch from beginning to end, you will glean some hard (in a good way) Ultra truths.

It would be unfair to call the Apple Watch Ultra a ruggedized version of the Apple Watch 8 (or really any generation). It's not simply a toughened exterior. It's a completely redesigned Apple Watch. At 49mm, it's 5mm larger than the biggest Apple Watch 8. Naturally, it's also heavier. The titanium case helps it put on an additional 23 grams over the aluminum 45mm Apple Watch 8. The Ultra even outweighs the stainless steel Apple Watch 8 by almost 10 grams.

Unlike the Apple Watch 8's curved glass face that blends smoothly with the aluminum case, Apple gave the Ultra a no-nonsense, completely flat sapphire crystal display surrounded by a solid lip of titanium.

The watch looks and feels strong and, apparently, it is.

TechRax starts his test by dropping the watch from a four-foot height onto concrete, which, unsurprisingly, the Apple Watch Ultra handles well. Sure, there were some small scratches on the titanium body but I have yet to see a scratchproof Apple product.

The tests continue in a similarly less-than-scientific fashion with TechRax dropping the Apple Watch (by now, it must've suspected something was amiss) into a jar of screws and nails. TechRax then shook the jar, after which the watch emerged mostly unscathed, though the orange band was getting dirty.

Perhaps frustrated that he was getting nowhere, TechRax took out a small sledgehammer, put the watch on a pristine white table, and gave it three sharp whacks.

Nothing happened. No scratches. No cracks. No malfunctions.

It's worth pausing here to think about what this may mean in the real world of Apple Watch Ultra use.

Ultra strong

A while back, I was wearing my Apple Watch 7 while clearing out crawl space. I was lifting heavy timber and other debris out of what was essentially a pit filled with coarse sand and dirt. At one point, my watch got caught between a wood support beam, some grit, and a heavy beam in my hand. The Ion-X glass screen ended up with a huge, disfiguring gouge.

Based on what I've seen here in this video, I think the Apple Watch Ultra might hold up considerably better under similar conditions or, for instance, when you're climbing a mountain and your wrist slams into the rock face.

TechRax, however, wasn't satisfied. He then hammered the watch 12 more times. The table underneath the watch cracked, but the watch remained unscathed. Mostly. Unfortunately, even with no visible damage on the outside, the Apple Watch Ultra stopped working.

That's when TechRax went to town, repeatedly hitting the watch face until it shattered. He then flipped the watch over and hit the sensor-filled back until it, too, cracked.

With each hit, I winced a little, as TechRax needless ruined a perfectly good and, normally, highly rugged Apple Watch Ultra.

Perhaps TechRax walked away satisfied, but I was a little sad for the Watch Ultra, which survived what should have been the worst of a beating, only to have the sadist come back at it and beat the watch into submission.

Potential Apple Watch Ultra consumers should take from this an incontrovertible fact: this is one very tough smartwatch.

You can find a list of all our favorite smartwatches here.

Lance Ulanoff
Editor At Large

A 38-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.